Klopp explains Phillips debut against West Ham in Fabinho & Van Dijk absence

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With makeshift centre-back Fabinho out and Joel Matip still injured, the 23-year-old starts alongside Joe Gomez at the heart of the Reds' back line

Jurgen Klopp has trusted Nat Phillips to line up at centre-back for Liverpool against West Ham because he is the most experienced option available.

The Reds are battling a defensive injury crisis after seeing Virgil van Dijk ruled out for several months with a knee ligament injury sustained against Everton in early-October.

With makeshift centre-back Fabinho out and Joel Matip still injured, 23-year-old Phillips has been drafted in for Saturday’s Premier League clash at Anfield.

Rhys Williams was the one trusted to replace Fabinho after the Brazil international limped off in the first half of Liverpool’s Champions League win against Midtjylland on Tuesday, while Klopp also highlighted 17-year-old Billy Koumetio as an option to partner Joe Gomez in the back line.

Meanwhile, the manager also said he is open to moving left-back Andrew Robertson into the middle to plug the gap.

Phillips had made just one senior appearance for the Reds - an FA Cup match against Everton earlier this year - before being handed his Premier League debut on Saturday.

The former Bolton youth academy player spent a season on loan at Stuttgart in the second tier in Germany, and Klopp believes his experience made him the ideal candidate to start against David Moyes’ side.

"Nat is the most experienced of the guys," Klopp said ahead of kick-off.

"He looks good in training, is a proper challenger, he loves the one on one situations and is good in the air. It's a special day for him 100 per cent."

Youngster Curtis Jones is also given another opportunity in midfield alongside Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.

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Elsewhere, Klopp's team has a more familiar feel, with the favoured front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino all back in. None of the trio started the Champions League win in midweek, though they did feature off the bench.

West Ham, meanwhile, started with Sebastien Haller up top in the absence of the injured Michail Antonio.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League games against West Ham, who have lost 21 of their 24 away matches against the reigning league champions in previous seasons.

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